The big climate bill story of the last few weeks is the breakthrough Senate climate partnership between Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.). The result — E&E News’s latest analysis shows, “At least 67 senators are in play” on climate bill.

This isn’t to say Senate passage will be easy, but I think it is now likely, and, it is certainly far more likely than it was two months ago. That’s what makes the lead story in today’s Washington Post so flawed.  It opens:

With Democrats deeply divided on the issue, unless some Republican lawmakers risk the backlash for signing on to the legislation, there is almost no hope for passage.

Uhh, yeah, well, it now looks like quite a few GOP lawmakers are willing to risk that backlash. Equally lame, the article’s subhead is “Democrats Deeply Split,” and the print edition continuation headline is

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With Senate Democrats still divided, climate bill’s prospects cool

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Now what’s particularly amazing about that headline — other than it gets the direction of recent political movement exactly backwards — is that the WashPost quotes precisely one Democrat dissing the bill’s prospects, Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).  Yet no serious vote counter had ever considered Nelson a serious prospect.  For E&E, Nelson was always a “probable no.”  For Nate Silver, Nelson is a whopping 10.29 percent “probability of yes” — the lowest of any Democrat (see “Epic Battle 3: Who are the swing Senators?

The real news, and it’s pretty big, is actually buried at the end:

Graham and Kerry are set to meet Wednesday with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as well as with Obama’s top climate adviser, Carol M. Browner, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to discuss a possible compromise. They are also setting up meetings with colleagues on the issue.

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Wow!  Graham and Kerry are now directly engaged with the White House.  That is what should have been the headline and lead.

“There is nowhere near 60 votes for a nuclear power bill on its own. There’s not 60 votes for a cap-and-trade bill as it’s currently constructed,” Graham said in an interview. He said combining the two measures is “the only way you’ll get to 60 votes.”

It is what Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope calls “the old formula for bipartisanship.”

“They would agree on a goal, they would not agree exactly on the means to a goal, and they’d come up with a legislative solution that takes elements from both sides,” he said.

Wow again!  Even the Sierra club is warm to the deal, even knowing it will include a strong title on nuclear energy and another on drilling for oil and gas.

And Graham, for his part, has become a lightning rod for controversy back home. On Oct. 22, the American Energy Alliance, an advocacy group funded in part by energy companies, launched a radio, TV and online advertising campaign in South Carolina that has cost “close to $300,000″ so far, according to the group’s spokesman, Patrick Creighton.

Featuring a Halloween theme, the TV commercial warns of “some scary stories coming out of Washington” and says, “The latest is Senator Lindsey Graham’s support for a national energy tax called cap-and-trade.”

Creighton said the group questions why Graham says a deal will help offshore drilling, which Congress has already allowed.

Groups backing the climate bill came to Graham’s defense last week. They aired radio and television ads that featured state Sen. John Courson, a conservative Republican who became concerned about global warming after witnessing the decline of polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.

“Out-of-state interests are attacking our Senator Lindsey Graham,” Courson says in an ad underwritten by Republicans for Environmental Protection, “because he’s backing an energy plan that produces more power in America.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he is optimistic that the parties can reach an accord because Americans are not divided along party lines on global warming. “Is there bipartisanship in the country? I think clearly there is,” he said.

So the real headline is that with the prospect for serious bipartisanship, climate bill’s prospects warm.